2018 legislative races Archives - Page 2 of 42 - Florida Politics
Brandes TV ad

Jeff Brandes says he will hold politicians accountable in new SD 24 ad

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes has released a new ad for his re-election campaign highlighting his roots in Senate District 24 and promising to hold “bureaucrats and politicians” accountable.

The 30-second ad features shots of Brandes walking with and talking to employees of a lumber yard and touts the values instilled in him when he worked for his family’s business.

“I’m Jeff Brandes. My grandfather started our family lumber business nearly 70 years ago. He taught me to work hard, to stand up for what’s right and to never give up,” Brandes says in the ad. “As a soldier, I worked to protect the America we love. As a businessman, I’ve created hundreds of jobs.”

“Today, I’m holding bureaucrats and politicians accountable so we can create better jobs, provide safe, 21st Century schools and protect families and seniors. And if the politicians don’t wake up, I’m taking ‘em to the woodshed,” he concludes.

The ad disclosure indicates the spot was paid for by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, a PAC chaired by incoming Senate President Bill Galvano which supports GOP state Senate campaigns. Federal Communications Commission filings indicate FRSCC has placed several media buys supporting Brandes and other Senate Republicans in recent weeks.

The new ad follows another recent commercial paid for by Brandes’ campaign touting his role in shepherding the “Right to Try” law through the Legislature.

Brandes faces Democratic challenger Lindsay Cross in the general election. Cross was recruited by the Democratic Party in late July after Brandes’ previous challenger, trial lawyer Carrie Pilon, withdrew from the race for family reasons.

Through the end of August, Brandes had more than $900,000 on hand between his campaign account and political committee, Liberty Florida. Cross, meanwhile, has raised $58,600 for her campaign fund and had $54,120 on hand heading into September.

When Pilon was the presumed nominee, polling showed her within striking distance. The only public poll since Cross stepped in, however, showed Brandes with a 39-19 percent lead and 42 percent of voters undecided.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas County except for the tip of the peninsula, which is included in neighboring SD 19. According to the most recent bookclosing report published by the Florida Division of Elections, Republicans hold a 4-point advantage in voter registrations within the district, which voted in favor of Barack Obama twice before going plus-7 for Donald Trump in 2016.

Brandes and Cross are the only two candidates running for the seat.

The ad is below.

Heather Fitzenhagen announces Fort Myers fundraiser

Republican state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen will hold a fundraiser benefitting her re-election campaign on Sept. 24 in Fort Myers.

The event will be held at Society restaurant in the Bell Tower Shops, 13499 Bell Tower Dr., from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Those looking to drop by can sent an RSVP to Brittney Metzger at BrittneyRMetzger@gmail.com.

“It’s because of supporters such as you that I have been able to continue serving the residents of District 78 over the last 6 years. Although I have accomplished a lot during this time, there’s still a lot of work left to do, and I am up for the challenge,” Fitzenhagen said in a campaign email.

Fitzenhagen has represented Lee County’s House District 78 since 2012, when she earned more than two thirds of the vote in both the Republican primary and the general election. She only faced a write-in challenger in 2014, and two years ago she was re-elected without opposition.

In 2018, she faces her first Democratic challenger in Parisima Taeb, a physician who runs a private clinic in Fort Myers.

Through the end of August, Fitzenhagen held a strong lead in fundraising with more than $240,000 raised and about $98,000 on hand. Taeb has raised $22,500, including a $10,000 loan, and has about $18,000 in her campaign account.

The fundraiser invitation is below.

Fitzenhagen fundraiser 9.24.2018

Florida Chamber endorses 16 more legislative candidates

The Florida Chamber of Commerce has put out its third wave of endorsements for state legislative seats, giving the nod to 16 more candidates, including a pair of incumbents running for re-election in South Florida.

A handful of the Florida Chamber’s new endorsements are revisions reflecting a handful of surprise victories in the Aug. 28 primary election.

“As we saw during the primary election, election outcomes can be unpredictable, but it’s our job to make sure that voters stay informed about the best possible candidates to move Florida forward,” said Marian Johnson, the Florida Chamber’s senior VP of political operations. “The Florida Chamber is proud to support candidates that support free enterprise.”

Among those getting the nod in round three was state Rep. Gayle Harrell, who demolished Belinda Keiser in the Republican primary for Senate District 25. Harrell now faces Rob Levy, a Stuart Democrat, in the Nov. 6 general election. The Chamber hadn’t offered a recommendation in the race prior to Thursday’s announcement.

The two incumbents earning an endorsement were Lake Clarke Shores Democratic Rep. David Silvers and Wellington Democratic Rep. Matt Willhite. Silvers’ only opposition is Green Party candidate Samson LeBeau Kpadenou, who is outmatched in fundraising, while Willhite faces Royal Palm Beach Republican Laurel Bennett, who is similarly underfunded and faces long odds in the deep blue House District 86.

Among the non-electeds earning the Chamber’s support were a pair of candidates who face tough battles in the fall: House District 69 candidate Ray Blacklidge and House District 93 candidate Chip LaMarca.

Blacklidge routed the Chamber’s prior pick, Jeremy Bailie, in the Republican primary and now faces Democratic nominee Jennifer Webb in the general election. The primary battle was expensive, and Blacklidge currently trails Webb in both campaign fundraising and cash on hand.

LaMarca, a Broward County Commissioner, was uncontested in the Republican primary, but he is up against well-funded Democrat Emma Collum in the general. With $335,000 raised, LaMarca has her beat threefold in hard-money fundraising, though an “angel donor” stepped in with $200,000 in committee cash to put her on even footing in the race — Republicans only hold a slim advantage in the Broward-based district currently held by term-limited Rep. George Moraitis.

Other candidates getting the nod after their Chamber-backed rivals lost in the primary include HD 10 Republican nominee Chuck Brannan, who faces two NPA candidates and Democrat Ronald Williams in November; HD 51 Republican nominee Tyler Sirois, who is going head-to-head with Democrat Mike Blake; and HD 73 Republican nominee Tommy Gregory, who cruised in the primary after one-time candidate Melissa Howard withdrew from the contest after it was revealed she had faked a diploma from Miami University.

The remaining endorsements went to HD 32 Republican nominee Anthony Sabatini, HD 103 Republican nominee Frank Mingo, HD 28 Republican nominee David Smith, HD 71 Republican nominee Will Robinson, HD 105 Republican nominee Ana Maria Rodriguez, HD 62 Democratic nominee Dianne Hart and HD 119 Republican nominee Juan Alfonso Fernandez-Barquin.

Based on the makeup of their districts, Sabatini and Robinson are set to win in November, while Hart’s only competition is a write-in candidate. Rodriguez and Fernandez-Barquin face underfunded candidates in the general, as does Smith, though HD 28 could produce a close result on Election Day. Mingo has the money advantage in his race, though HD 103 was carried by Hillary Clinton two years ago and his opponent, Cindy Polo, has earned the backing of some groups, including Ruth’s List Florida.

The Florida Chamber’s first wave of endorsements came in May. It followed up with a second wave, which included 20 state legislative candidates, in mid-July.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Jeff Brandes TV ad

Jeff Brandes recalls ‘Right to Try’ law in new campaign ad

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes released a new ad Thursday touting his successful legislative effort to give patients more options in to fight terminal diseases.

The new ad, titled “Right to Try,” features St. Petersburg osteopathic physician Rob Proietto speaking about Brandes’ role in passing a 2015 bill that authorized the use of experimental treatments and medications for terminally ill patients.

Though Gov. Rick Scott signed the House version of the bill into law, Brandes was instrumental in shepherding the Senate companion, SB 1052, through its committee stops.

“For a long time, patients fighting a life-threatening illness were also fighting a system that wouldn’t give them a chance,” Proietto says in the ad. “That’s why Jeff Brandes passed Florida’s ‘Right to Try’ law. Now, eligible patients with a serious medical condition can get access to experimental drugs or clinical trials.

“Critically ill patients have the right to try because Jeff Brandes is keeping hope alive,” Proietto concludes.

A narrator then says, “Giving patients the right to choose the treatment they need. Jeff Brandes for state Senate.”

Specifically, the “Right to Try” law allows dying patients to access experimental medical treatments that have passed a Phase One Clinical Trial but have not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

“Floridians deserve to have access to medical treatments that could extend or improve the quality of their lives,” Brandes said of the proposal in 2015. “It often takes three years or longer for medications to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. We can save lives by speeding up access to these treatments for patients who don’t have other options available, and I look forward to strong bipartisan support of this legislation.”

The new ad was paid for by Brandes’ campaign account, though as of Thursday afternoon no details of the media buy backing it up had been posted by the Federal Communications Commission.

Brandes, a lifelong resident of St. Pete, is running for his final term in the Florida Senate. He was first elected to the Senate in 2012, but due to redistricting has been forced to run for re-election every two years since taking office. He was also a member of the Florida House from 2010 through 2012.

This year, he faces Democratic challenger Lindsay Cross, an environmental scientist who recently resigned as executive director of the Florida Wildlife Corridor to run for the SD 24 seat. Cross was recruited after the Florida Democratic Party’s first pick, Carrie Pilon, withdrew due to the unexpected health problems of a close family member.

Since entering the race, Cross has failed to gain traction in fundraising, have raised just $58,588 through the end of last month with $54,121 in the bank.

By comparison, Brandes has raised $822,170 in hard money, including $300,000 in self-funding, and had $525,000 in his campaign account on Aug. 31. He also had more than $375,000 at his disposal in his affiliated political committee, Liberty Florida, on Sept. 7.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas County except for the tip of the peninsula, which is included in neighboring SD 19. According to the most recent bookclosing report published by the Florida Division of Elections, Republicans hold a 4-point advantage in voter registrations within the district, which voted in favor of Barack Obama twice before going plus-7 for Donald Trump in 2016.

A recent poll of the race showed Brandes with a 39-19 percent lead over Cross with 42 percent of those polled unsure of who they’ll vote for come Election Day.

Brades’ ad is below.

Shawn Harrison

Frank Reddick crosses the aisle to back Shawn Harrison’s re-election bid in HD 63

Tampa City Council Chairman Frank Reddick has endorsed state Rep. Shawn Harrison in his re-election bid for Hillsborough County’s House District 63.

Tampa City Councilors are chosen in non-partisan elections, though Reddick is a Democrat and Harrison is a Republican. HD 63 is a swing seat that Harrison has held for three non-consecutive terms. In 2018, he faces Democratic attorney Fentrice Driskell.

“I have known and worked along-side Shawn Harrison for 12 years. Representative Harrison is a true bipartisan leader. He doesn’t just talk the talk. When Shawn was Chairman Pro-Tem of the Tampa City Council, he supported my efforts to make East Tampa a stronger community. When we asked for help to stop the evictions from Tampa Park Apartments, Shawn contacted HUD on our behalf and together we were successful,” Reddick said.

“He was the only Republican in the State to support my efforts for a special session on Stand your Ground. And when needy families had an opportunity for expanded Medicaid, Shawn once again crossed party lines to support the people back home. As a Representative in Tallahassee, he has shown the courage to stand up for what’s right for his constituents, even if it meant voting against his party,” he continued.

“For decades, Shawn has proven to not only me, but the thousands of constituents he’s represented over the years, that he is willing to tackle big problems and fight for what is right and fair for our community, regardless of political party,” Reddick said.

“Shawn Harrison fought to make sure our children have access to better schools and a brighter future with his support of Hope Scholarships. And Shawn even went so far as to donate hundreds of family books to the kids at Kimbell Elementary with his ‘Read Little Cougars’ challenge. Representative Harrison is there for us when we need him most and I’m excited to endorse him and continue my work with him to move our community forward and create better opportunities for all,” Reddick concluded.

Harrison was grateful for the resounding endorsement from the influential Democrat and former colleague.

“Chairman Reddick is a friend and former colleague on the Tampa City Council. He is one of the true statesmen of our region. He has been a leading voice in our community for decades. I welcome the chance to support Frank whenever I can, and I’m truly humbled to have his support,” Harrison said.

This isn’t the first time Reddick has endorsed Harrison in a state House election. Two years ago, when the Tampa Republican was up against Tampa City Councilor Lisa Montelione, Reddick was in Harrison’s corner. Other endorsements for Harrison have come in from the Florida Realtors, the Florida Police Benevolent Association and the Associated Industries of Florida.

To date, Harrison has raised $180,511 in hard money and has $106,890 of that cash in the bank. He also has another $130,410 on hand in his affiliated political committee, Committee for an Innovative Florida, for a total war chest of $237,300 at the end of August.

Driskell, meanwhile, has raised $146,650 for her campaign account and had $100,525 left to spend on Aug. 31. Her backers include Ruth’s List, an organization that helps Democratic women get elected.

HD 63 covers part of Hillsborough County, including portions of northern Tampa and the communities of Lutz, Pebble Creek, Lake Magdalene and Carrollwood. Democrats make up about 39 percent of the swing seat’s electorate, while Republicans hold a 32 percent share.

Harrison served in the House from 2010 to 2012, when former Democratic Rep. Mark Danish beat him by about 700 votes to flip the newly redrawn HD 63 despite raising less than $20,000 for his campaign compared to nearly $300,000 for Harrison.

Harrison reclaimed the seat in the 2014 cycle with a 5-point win over Danish, and in 2016 he emerged victorious in a tough re-election battle over Montelione. His sub 2-point victory came as Democrat Hillary Clinton carried the seat by double digits.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Jennifer Webb passes Ray Blacklidge in total fundraising, cash on hand

With her end-of-August campaign finance report, St. Petersburg Democrat Jennifer Webb has officially surpassed Madeira Beach Republican Ray Blacklidge in campaign fundraising.

Webb and Blacklidge are vying for the House District 69 seat currently held by state Rep. Kathleen Peters, who is now the Republican nominee for a seat on the Pinellas County Commission.

The small-business woman raised about $7,900 from Aug. 24 through the end of the month, bringing her fundraising total to about $181,500 since she entered the race to succeed Peters late last year. That puts her ahead of her opponent by about $3,500 in campaign fundraising.

“It’s clear that voters are attracted to our community-centered campaign, and they understand what’s at stake with this election,” Webb said in a press release touting her fundraising efforts.

“I’m grateful for the voters that continue to support our campaign. I’m committed to creating an environment where hardworking families and local businesses can thrive together,” she continued. “I will fight for clean waterways, shore up our schools and infrastructure, and ensure that families suffering from mental health or substance use can access much-needed treatment.”

Thanks to one-time Democratic candidate Javier Centonzio stepping aside, Webb was able to make it through primary season without facing a challenger. Blacklidge wasn’t as fortunate.

The Madeira Beach attorney went up against St. Petersburg attorney Jeremy Bailie in a head-to-head that ended up being a 58-42 percent rout, but it took nearly all of his war chest to do so — Blacklidge spent nearly $71,000 in the two weeks leading up to the primary election, most of it heading to Front Line Strategies, a Tallahassee-based consulting shop that offers an array of advertising and campaign services.

His final August report showed a single $1,000 check, bringing him to $178,082 in total hard money fundraising. Excluding self-funding, he’s brought in $142,284. Either way you slice it, he only had $2,500 of those funds left to spend heading into September.

While Webb has taken the lead when it comes to hard money, Blacklidge also has an affiliated political committee, Friends of Ray Blacklidge, that has brought in $52,210 this cycle. The committee’s cupboard is just as bare as his campaign account’s with about $2,600 at the ready.

Those figures also give Webb a massive lead in cash on hand. She started September with $88,820 in hard money in her account while Blacklidge had $5,123 between his campaign and committee.

The one advantage for Blacklidge: Since he faced an opponent in the primary, all the donors chipped in max contributions during the primary — 104 at last count — may do so again for the general election according to the state code governing campaign finance.

Webb hasn’t relied as heavily on $1,000 checks; they make up about a third of her total fundraising, with the average of her 1162 monetary donors chipping in about $158.33, leaving plenty of room for those supporters to keep up with small-dollar donations. By comparison, Blacklidge’s average donor has given $483.95.

HD 69 includes part of St. Petersburg and the communities of Redington Beach, Madeira Beach, Treasure Island, South Pasadena and Gulfport. Republicans have a slim lead in voter registrations in the district, which voted plus-3 for Donald Trump in 2016.

Webb was also the Democratic nominee two years ago, but lost by 13 percentage points on Election Day. The lack of an incumbent, the possibility of a “blue wave” and her strong fundraising — she’s outdone her 2016 tally and has $37,000 more banked than she did at the same checkpoint two years ago — will lead to the Pinellas County district flipping blue.

The next round of campaign finance reports, covering the first two weeks of September, are due to the state on Sept. 21.

Keith Perry

Bill Galvano helping Keith Perry raise re-election cash in Tallahassee

Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano will host a fundraiser for Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry in Tallahassee next week.

The Sept. 20 reception will be held at the Florida Retail Federation office, 226 S. Adams St., from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Making the host committee alongside Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, Elkton Republican Sen. Travis Hutson and Melissa Ramba, FRF’s VP of Government Affairs.

Those looking to attend the fundraiser can direct their RSVPs to Skylar Swanson via Skylar@VoteKeithPerry.com or (352) 888-5770.

Perry was elected to Senate District 8 in 2016 with a 5-point victory over former Florida Democratic Party chair and former Sen. Rod Smith. Due to new Senate maps, Perry has to run for re-election after serving just two years.

In 2018 he will face Democratic nominee Kayser Enneking, a Gainesville physician, and former Gainesville City Commissioner Charles Goston, a Democrat who filed for the seat as an unaffiliated candidate.

Through the end of August, Perry had raised more than $500,000 in hard money and another $231,500 through his political committee, Building a Prosperous Florida, and had about $525,000 in the bank between the two accounts. His campaign has also received more than $425,000 worth of “in kind” support from the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, a party affiliated committee chaired by Galvano that aims to maintain the Republican majority in the state Senate.

By comparison, Enneking has raised $412,500 in hard money and another $175,000 through her political committee, Florida Knows Excellence, and had about $235,000 in the bank at the end of the month — her campaign had to shell out about $132,500 during the closing weeks of her primary race against Gainesville Democrat Olysha Magruder in order to combat a massive “dark money” campaign funded by Republican operatives.

Enneking has also received about $129,000 worth of “in kind” support from the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the fundraising arm for Democratic senate candidates chaired by incoming Minority Leader Audrey Gibson.

Goston, who lost re-election to the City Commission in a landslide, has about $1,800 in his account and is only relevant as a possible spoiler.

SD 8 covers all of Alachua and Putnam counties as well as the northern half of Marion County. It is one of a handful of districts that became more favorable to Democrats after the Senate map was redrawn ahead of the 2016 elections.

Despite Democrats holding an 8-point lead in voter registrations in the redrawn district, Perry scored a comfortable victory over two years ago as the seat was narrowly carried by President Donald Trump.

The fundraiser invitation is below.

Keith Perry Fundraiser 9.20.2018

Top House Republicans holding fundraiser for Central Florida incumbents

Incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva and the two Republican lawmakers set to succeed him in that post will be in Orlando next week for a fundraiser benefitting the re-election campaigns of their Central Florida colleagues.

Oliva, Palm Harbor Rep. Chris Sprowls and Palm Coast Rep. Paul Renner will headline the Sept. 12 fundraising reception at The Groove, 6000 Universal Blvd. The event starts at 7 p.m.

The fundraiser will benefit 10 incumbent Republicans representing Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia counties in the state House: Mike La Rosa, Colleen Burton, Bob Cortes, Randy Fine, Bobby Olszewski, Scott Plakon, Rene Plasencia, David Santiago, Jennifer Sullivan and Josie Tomkow.

Also on the invitation is Stockton Reeves, the Republican nominee in House District 47, which is open this year due to current Republican Rep. Mike Miller opting to challenge U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

Reeves defeated Mikaela Nix by 10 points in the Republican primary for the seat last week. He now moves on to a general election showdown against well-funded Democratic nominee Anna Eskamani.

Most of the incumbents on the invite are running for re-election in safely Republican districts.

Cortes, who represents HD 30, and Olszewski, who holds HD 44, are both running for re-election in seats carried by Hillary Clinton two years ago, however, they both went uncontested in August and have substantial fundraising leads over their Democratic challengers.

Those looking to attend the fundraiser can direct their RSVPs to Rick Porter via 407-849-1112 or Ivey Rooney via Ivey@PoliticalCapitalFlorida.com.

The invitation is below.

House Republican Majority Fundraiser 9.12.2018

Mike Hill

Mike Hill’s comeback bid needed every trick in the book

Florida’s primary elections had some shockers, none more so than the surprise win of Andrew Gillum in the Democratic primary for Governor.

Further down the ticket, in the Republican primary for Escambia County’s state House District 1, there was another big upset: Former state Rep. Mike Hill’s 3-point victory over rising GOP star Rebekah Bydlak.

Bydlak had outraised him, outspent him and had picked up the kind of endorsements that usually carry candidates through a GOP primary — the National Rifle Association and term-limited HD 1 Rep. Clay Ingram both endorsed her, and she had an “A” rating from the staunchly anti-abortion group Florida Right to Life.

Polling also indicated Bydlak was ahead of Hill and a look at the vote totals on the Escambia County Supervisor of Elections website shows Bylak held a 52-44 percent lead among early voters, and she and Hill were tied 48-48 percent with mail ballots included.

Hill won Election Day, however, by 5 percentage points. Milton Republican Lisa Doss nearly quadrupled her vote tally to take 9 percent of the ballots cast last Tuesday.

What happened?

Hill’s performance could all be due to his higher name recognition. HD 1 shares a border and media market with his old seat, HD 2, where he won a couple of elections. Two years ago, he also spent nearly $200,000 in campaign dollars running in the SD 1 Republican primary, where he lost by 14 points to now-Sen. Doug Broxson.

But the late break this year toward Hill could also be due to a string of deceitful mailers, disinformation, racially charged and sexist comments, shady campaign stunts and a fake endorsement from President Donald Trump in the closing days of the race.

Hill spent more than $25,000 in hard money on direct mail ads in the final weeks of the race, and nearly all of them smeared Bydlak.

One of Hill’s mailers featured a phony picture of Bydlak smiling alongside 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and claimed Bydlak had been “kicked out of the Republican Party,” didn’t own a house in HD 1, received $100,000 from a member of the anti-Trump establishment tied to billionaire liberal booster George Soros and that she was pro-choice and anti-gun despite her receiving recommendations from groups that would certainly take umbrage if she held those positions.

Another mailer claimed Bydlak and Republican U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan were attacking “conservatives like Mike Hill and President Trump,” and that Bydlak was trying to take down Confederate monuments in Pensacola — no small accusation in the deep-red Panhandle district.

In now-deleted social media posts, Hill also called attention to Amash’s Palestinian heritage, noteworthy because of Hill’s other statements about Islamic people. In early August, Hill tweeted about the “demonic Muslim horde” and retweeted a statement that “Islam is a cancer.”

Also on the list of social media tactics was the use of paid campaign staffers to blast Bydlak for her not having children.

“How can a girl make good solid choices on my children and grandchildren, when she has never raised a family?” Kelly White Seward asked in a Facebook post liked and shared by Hill. Florida Division of Elections records show Seward received $2,000 in payments from Hill’s campaign account during the 2018 cycle.

All the while, Hill has allowed racism to fester on his campaign’s official Facebook page, where his supporters have repeated Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis’ possibly misinterpreted “monkey” comment. More overt: Another supporter responded to a Facebook post Hill made criticizing Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum by saying the Tallahassee Mayor should be “picking cotton.”

While Hill was pouring money into the negative ads and stoking racial tensions, a committee tied to Clearwater Republican Rep. Chris Latvala paid thousands of dollars more for a slate of positive mailers pitching Hill as the “pro-life, pro-guns, pro-Jesus” candidate in the race.

One of the mailers paid for by Latvala’s Suncoast Better Government Committee features a faked picture of Hill next to Trump and strongly insinuates the President had endorsed him — laid over the top of the Hill-Trump photo is a label that says “I like Mike.”

Hill Trump - I Like Mike

Trump did say that phrase in an early August tweet during his spat with NBA superstar LeBron James. But it was an obvious reference to Michael Jordan, whom James is most often compared to in “best ever” arguments.

Hill quoted that tweet, calling it his Trump endorsement.

In a vacuum, that tweet could be viewed as a lighthearted joke, however, the mailers cast doubt on that and toe the line of what is considered legal campaign communications.

Under Florida law, it is illegal “for any candidate or person on behalf of a candidate to represent that any person or organization supports such candidate, unless the person or organization so represented has given specific approval in writing to the candidate to make such representation.” In English: Faking an endorsement is a crime.

If the mailers don’t cross a line, his odd last-minute livestream just might. The Facebook Live video features Hill standing in front of a Confederate monument holding a replica of Trump’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star and teetering between representing it as real and acknowledging it was fake.

“As you can see, Pensacola, I have the Trump star. We’re bringing it here to Pensacola. We’re going to lay it here. Trump is an awesome president and we’re going to show our support and respect for our President. Hollywood doesn’t want his star, we want it here,” Hill says, star in hand.

He then hedges his claim that the star is real by saying, if elected, he’ll “be able to do more to make sure that this star gets here and that it stays here.”

But he again purported to have the real-deal star in a Facebook post made after the livestream.

“We have President Trump’s Hollywood Star! Pensacola is America’s first settlement — where it all began. Fitting that we have our President’s star rejected by leftists. We will honor and protect it!” he wrote.

He used similar wording in an official campaign email sent via MailChimp that went out to the entire Escambia County absentee voter list.

“We have President Trump’s Hollywood Star! Pensacola is America’s first settlement  —where it all began. Fitting that we have our President’s star rejected by Hollywood. We will honor and protect it,” Hill said in the email.

Trump’s Hollywood star was destroyed. Twice. According to Ana Martinez, the Hollywood Walk of Fame’s producer and the vice president of media relations at the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, Hill’s star isn’t the real thing.

“Oh, that’s a fake,” Martinez said after viewing a photo of the star. “They were destroyed with a pickaxe.”

Martinez added that the Hollywood Chamber is in possession of the emblem from the original star and that the second star was essentially reduced to dust — an individual attempted to sell one shard of that star on eBay for $500 but the auction was pulled for violating the site’s rules. A real Walk of Fame star weighs more than 300 pounds, Martinez added. Hill easily lifts his star in the video.

Martinez described Hill’s counterfeit star as an “infringement” and said that the matter would be referred for further investigation.

Just as bizarre as those Walk of Fame claims are statements made by Doss, who entered the primary race just days ahead of the qualifying deadline and raised no money outside of the self-contribution she used to pay the ballot fee. Though it is unconfirmed, there are rumors that Doss was recruited by Hill, who has never won a one-on-one race, to help split the vote in his favor.

Florida Politics attempted to contact Doss but received no response.

According to the financial disclosure she turned in to the Florida Division of Elections, her only income was a $1,248 Social Security disability check while her two bank accounts had a combined balance of $350 on June 18. However, her listed assets also included $3,100 in cash. She used that cash to open her campaign account, leading to an audit by the Division of Election for exceeding the limit on cash contributions. She was also dinged for not listing her occupation, which she later amended to be “disabled.”

Like Hill, Doss used MailChimp to send out her campaign emails while her campaign website, VoteDoss.com, was registered via the same Bulgarian-based web hosting company as Hill’s campaign site: SiteGround.us. Both Hill and Doss paid the $12 fee charged by the company to hide the information of who registered their respective websites, but the servers they are hosted on are in the same Chicago data center.

Hill’s domain was registered on Sept. 16, 2017, though he never reported any expenditures directly related to the website’s registration, creation or upkeep. Doss’ domain was registered on June 30, and the only expenditures she ever reported other than the ballot fee were $75.35 in payments to SiteGround for a “website” and “extra security for website.”

Suspicions were further raised given that Doss’ campaign emails and social media posts used oddly similar language and peddled the same conspiracies as Hill’s — namely that Bydlak was tied to Soros and that she did not own a house in the district.

The latter attack is true, though misleading. Bydlak rents a home within the district and her parents and grandparents also live in the district, same as the past nine generations of her family. The attack that she doesn’t own a home also obscures some history behind her political heritage — the first-ever meeting of the Florida Legislature was actually held within what is now HD 1 in the home of her fifth-great-grandfather, Don Manuel Gonzalez.

Doss also often referred to herself as the middle ground between Bydlak, whom she said was “too liberal,” and Hill, whom she said was “too conservative.” In such a red district, that statement would be more likely to benefit Hill and kneecap Bydlak than to help Doss.

Doss email

Additionally, Doss was a frequent poster on Hill’s social media pages. In one Facebook post she said that even though she wanted to win the primary election, it was more important that Bydlak lose.

“Even though I’m running against Mike Hill, I do know he is a good man!! I hope 2 win but if I don’t I sure hope Mike Hill does!! As a candidate myself I have done a lot of research on my opponents & the bunch funding Rebekah Bydlak I found out the same information on,” she wrote, referencing Hill’s Soros claims.

And when Doss’ birthday rolled around, Hill made sure to wish her the best.

doss birthday

In the end, the Republican primary came down to 542 votes out of the nearly 19,000 cast, and Hill’s victory virtually assures he’ll cruise back into the state House after drubbing Democratic nominee Vikki Garrett in November.

Bydlak, meanwhile, steps back into private life.

“If you want to know why principled conservatives don’t get involved in politics, you need only look at this race. If you want to know why conservative women run for office less frequently then men, take a look at how Mike Hill shamelessly lied to voters that Rebekah was pro-choice and anti-gun. He’s disgraceful and frankly unfit for public office,” said her husband, Jonathan Bydlak.

Mailers sent out by Hill’s campaign and the Suncoast Better Government Committee are below.

Mike Hill direct mail ads by Andrew Wilson on Scribd

Cruz - FRSCC TV ad

New ad hits Janet Cruz over past property tax blunder

A new ad paid for by a committee charged with maintaining the Republican majority in the state Senate is hitting House Minority Leader and Senate District 18 candidate Janet Cruz for claiming homestead exemptions on multiple properties a decade ago.

The ad, titled “Lower Taxes,” notes that even though the Tampa Democrat, who is challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Dana Young, slipped up on paying all of her own property taxes, she voted against a 2017 bill to increase the homestead exemption for all Floridians.

“What do you call a career politician who wants you to pay higher taxes while she plays less? Janet Cruz,” the ad’s narrator says. “Janet Cruz voted against increasing your homestead exemption but was caught red-handed illegally claiming two exemptions for herself.

“Her second exemption? This multimillion dollar bayfront mansion,” the ad says while showing a picture of the property. “For five years, Cruz cheated on over $32,000 in taxes then voted to up yours. The Janet Cruz tax plan: You pay more. She pays less.”

The ad disclosure states it was paid for by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, a political committee chaired by incoming Senate President Bill Galvano that supports Republican state Senate candidates.

Cruz indeed claimed multiple homestead exemptions from 2004 through 2008, leading the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser to place a $32,000 lien for back taxes on an Empedrado Street home she purchased in 1983. As noted in a 2010 Tampa Tribune article, Cruz had been living in a San Miguel Street home owned by her husband while her then 29-year-old son was living in the Empedrado home.

Florida law only allows property owners to claim homestead exemptions on their permanent residence or the permanent residence of a dependent. Currently, Floridians are exempt from paying taxes other than school district levies on up to $75,000 of the value of their home, depending on its assessed value.

That article also quotes an attorney for the property appraiser’s office as saying Cruz “brought it forward” rather than the appraiser’s office discovering the improper homestead exemption and added that the double exemption didn’t appear to be an intentional violation of state law. In another article, published in 2010, Cruz said she would pay the taxes rather than appeal the lien in court.

“I have always operated within what I thought was my obligation as a taxpayer. As soon as this was brought to my attention, I immediately contacted the Property Appraiser’s Office and went through the proper channels to remedy this situation,” she said in a 2010 statement. “I will certainly do what any responsible citizen would do and pay what I am obligated to pay.”

The ad comes as Cruz is set to release her first TV spot, which details her back story and her reasons for running for the northwestern Hillsborough Senate seat. Young released her first ad of the 2018 election cycle, which pitched her as a problem solver in a time of partisan fighting, in late July.

SD 18 is one of the Florida Democratic Party’s top targets for a flip in the fall and, as evidenced by FRSCC’s new ad, Florida Republicans are going to be aggressively defending the seat.

The district covers much of Tampa and has a close partisan split in voter registrations. SD 18 voted plus-6 for Hillary Clinton two years ago while at the same time electing Young with a plurality of the vote in a four-way race between her, Democratic nominee Bob Buesing and NPA candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove.

Only Cruz and Young will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

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